A man skis down a mountain slope at sunrise.

From postcard-worthy ski retreats to cultural havens, these unexpected spring getaway appeal to a variety of interests and traveler types. (Getty Images)

When you think of spring break, chances are you imagine warm, sunny beaches, cerulean waters and plenty of R&R. But if you're looking for a high-value holiday that breaks away from the usual college crowds and party set, consider an alternative destination with plenty of culture and cold-weather splendors, from skiing to hiking to museum-hopping. Read on to discover nine unusual, yet worthwhile spring break ideas.

[See: 9 Ways to Save Money on a Spring Break Trip.]

Bend, Oregon

Bend's Mount Bachelor certainly offers plenty of opportunities for spring skiing and snowboarding, but you can also enjoy snow tubing, dog slide rides and snowshoe tours. And when you're not playing in the snow, you can explore some of Bend's 20-plus breweries. What's more, the Mount Bachelor Village Resort offers a Kids Ski Free program, inviting kids ages 12 and under to ski the chance to ski for free with booking three-day (or longer) adult lift ticket in advance.

Lake of the Woods County, Minnesota

When a foot (or more) of ice covers one of Minnesota's nearly 12,000 lakes, it means ice-fishing season has arrived. Throughout the cooler months, there are several ice-fishing events where families can spend quality time out on the ice across Lake of the Woods Country, offering a perfect mid-school year getaway. Year after year, families and avid fishers alike congregate to Lake of the Woods seeking the perfect catch.

Southwest Montana

Southwest Montana is sprinkled with hot springs that offer a relaxing reprieve for winter-weary visitors. Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, located between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park, offers expansive outdoor pools for unwinding, as well as a waterslide for those who crave fast-paced thrills. Plus, there are plenty of special promotions for families and spa-seekers at the property for budget-minded visitors. And for those interested in a cost-effective camping trip, Norris Hot Springs, located in located in Madison Valley in Norris, Montana, is an eco-friendly gem that features artesian springs and utilizes its natural resources to produce meals made with local ingredients from the on-site garden and nearby farms. What's more, Norris Hot Springs hosts bluegrass bands weekly.

Sun Valley, Idaho

Whether you want to spend your days on the slopes or at the spa, Sun Valley Resort is the ideal destination to enjoy a wide range of action-packed and relaxing pursuits. With two mountains to choose from – Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain – you can enjoy world-class skiing on more than 3,400 vertical feet and over 2,000 acres of varied terrain. And if you make it over to the nation's first ski resort, be sure to ask about their sleigh rides, which feature craft cocktails for an experience to remember.

Stowe, Vermont

Avid powder hounds gravitate to Stowe Mountain Lodge for its laid-back yet luxurious atmosphere mixed with the adventure of Vermont's Green Mountains. Whether you want to test your strength on a ropes course or soar through the trees on a zip line, Stowe has you covered. For guests who would rather relax and recharge, the Mountain Lodge offers a variety of unique wellness amenities and spa treatments, from full moon yoga to a soothing Vermont maple syrup and brown sugar scrub.

[See: 8 Great Alternative Spring Break Ideas for Every Budget.]

Taos, New Mexico

North-central New Mexico offers striking mountain scenery and wide open landscapes. Plus, Taos is a mecca for artists and culture vultures. The area is also home to a burgeoning foodie scene. During your visit, you'll want to check out pueblo life and culture at Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage site that has been continually inhabited for more than 1,000 years. A hot air balloon ride over the Rio Grande Gorge for a unique birds-eye view is also a must for springtime visitors.

Eden, Utah

Utah's Nordic Valley is famous for its ski schools, intermediate and advanced slopes and family-friendly atmosphere. Best known as one of the top downhill training ski areas for the 2002 Winter Olympics, the area is nestled deep in the heart of the Wasatch Mountains and is just a few miles from the restaurants and entertainment of Ogden, Utah. Nearby points of interest include Rockport and Willard Bay State Parks, Treehouse Children's Museum and the Alpine Art Center.

Carrabassett Valley, Maine

Nestled in western Maine, the town of Carrabassett Valley is home to the 4,000-foot Sugarloaf Mountain, a winter skiing destination and the southernmost trailhead on the Maine Huts and Trails' 80-mile network. Skip the beach crowds and get a much-needed reboot with a cozy backcountry winter adventure at Maine Huts and Trails. Four huts are connected by a series of groomed backcountry trails, offering access to lakes, rivers and forestlands that can only be seen by outdoor thrills such as hiking, biking and cross-country skiing.

[See: 10 Bucket List Winter Family Vacation Experiences.]

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, California

The U.S. Ski Team makes Mammoth its annual spring training home and it's easy to see why. Along with its pristine powder and consistent snowfall, the area's California-cool vibes are another main draw. A typical day on the slopes at Mammoth Mountain starts early and ends around noon; visitors have the rest of the afternoon to relax, recharge and explore the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada to enjoy fishing, hiking, boating, biking and more recreational pursuits.

Tags: travel, vacations, spring


Sarah Pike is a freelancer, adjunct professor and wanderlust sufferer. When she’s not writing, teaching, or traveling, she’s probably binge-watching RomComs and dreaming up her next vacation. You can find her on Twitter at @sarahzpike.

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